Author's site of Gennady Hertzev. Photography, graphics, painting.

Art of Ancient Egypt

Art of Ancient Egypt

An ancient state in the lower reaches of the Nile River, in northeastern Africa. It took shape by 3000 BC. e. as a result of the unification of the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. According to the reckoning of the Egyptian priest Manetho (late 4th-early 3rd centuries BC), up to 341 BC. e. (2nd conquest of Egypt by the Persians) there were 30 dynasties. Ancient Egyptian art, mainly designed to serve the needs of religion, including the funeral cult and the state cult of the deified pharaoh, expressed its ideas in a strictly canonical form, but underwent an evolution that reflected changes in the political and spiritual life of Egyptian society. Many classical architectural forms and types (pyramid, obelisk, column), types of fine arts (round sculpture, relief, monumental painting, etc.) were developed. Local art schools were formed. Vivid creative individuals showed up. Ancient Egyptian artists interpreted and transformed into a coherent system the basic means of the plastic arts: volume, mass, support and overlap – in architecture; plane, line, silhouette, color spot – in relief and painting; the texture of stone and wood – in monumental and easel sculpture; rhythm. The canonized form of the image of a human figure on a plane has developed – simultaneously in the face (eyes, shoulders) and in profile (face, chest, legs).

Art of Ancient Egypt

The basic principles of ancient Egyptian art began to take shape during the period of the 2nd dynasties (c. 3000 – c. 2800 BC). The leading role was acquired by architecture closely related to the funeral cult (mastaba tomb). The prevailing principles of monumentality and staticity, embodying the idea of ​​the inviolability of the social system and the superhuman greatness of the pharaoh, influenced the development of sculpture and painting, which are also characterized by geometric generalization, symmetry and statics, strict frontality (statue of Pharaoh Hasekhem, early 3rd millennium BC). BC, Cairo). In the period of the Old Kingdom (c. 2800-c. 2250 BC. E.), Previously found artistic techniques acquired stylistic completeness. A new architectural type of the pharaoh’s tomb was developed – the pyramid, the extreme simplicity of its forms, combined with its gigantic dimensions, created an architectural image full of aloof, superhuman grandeur (pyramids in Sakkara and Giza). The funeral complexes at the foot of the pyramids (funeral temples connected by long covered corridors with entrance pavilions, the majestic figure of the Sphinx, strict rows of mastab-like courtiers’ tombs) reflect the ceremonial order and hierarchy of Egyptian society. In the paintings and reliefs on the walls of the tombs (pictures of a prosperous life in the kingdom of the dead), acute observation, a sense of rhythm, the beauty of a generalized contour line, a silhouette, a local color spot, characteristic of Egyptian artists, are manifested (reliefs of the tombs of Ti and Akhotep in Sakkara, mid-3rd millennium BC). BC.).

The sculptural portrait was greatly developed. According to the Egyptians, the portrait statues played the role of doubles of the dead and served as a receptacle for their souls. Clearly differentiated into types (a walking man with a leg outstretched, sitting with crossed legs), solemnly static portrait statues are distinguished by the clarity and accuracy of conveying the most significant, characteristic features and social position of the person portrayed (statues of Pharaoh Khafre, Cairo, scribe Kai, Louvre), volumes statues are summarized; folds of clothes, wigs and hats, jewelry are carefully crafted.

Art of Ancient Egypt

In the era of the Middle Kingdom (approx. 2020-approx. 1700 BC), the pyramids lost their grandeur. The architecture showed the influence of provincial traditions – mastabas were replaced by rock tombs, with a 2- or 4-column portico. Memorial temples are often separated from tombs, have an elongated axial composition, a significant place in them is allocated to colonnades and porticoes (the Mentuhotep 1 temple in Deir el-Bahri). The construction of irrigation facilities has expanded. The growth of cities increased (the remains of the city of Kakhun in the Fayum district), in the development of which class inequality manifested itself: small adobe huts of cramped residential quarters, separated by a wall from the aristocratic part of the city, sharply differed from palaces (raw brick) with rooms decorated with paintings, with columns and porticoes, galleries, courtyards. In the visual arts, the tendencies towards believability increased. In the wall paintings of the tombs, the images acquired great compositional freedom, attempts to convey volume appeared, the color range was enriched. Images of secondary everyday scenes, plants, animals (paintings of tombs in Thebes, 21st century BC) are especially poetic freshness and spontaneity. The sculptural portrait showed a more individualized attitude towards a person. While maintaining the canons of the composition, the age features of the model were fixed, elements of character disclosure appeared (portrait heads and statues of the pharaohs Senusret III and Amenemhat III, 19th century BC); deliberately referring to hard rocks (diorite, granite), masterfully overcoming the resistance of the material, the sculptor revealed the clear structure of the face, emphasized its severity, and gave the image a dramatic expression.

Egyptian art flourished in the era of the New Kingdom (c. 1580-c. 1070 BC). Successful campaigns in Asia and the influx of wealth led to the exceptional luxury of life of the Egyptian nobility of this time. The harsh, dramatic images of the era of the Middle Kingdom were replaced by sophisticated aristocratic ones. The desire for elegance and decorative splendor has intensified. In architecture, the trends of the previous period were further developed. In the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahri, which is an architectural complex deployed in space, partially carved into the rocks, the strict lines of cornices and protodoric columns contrast with their reasonable order with the chaotic crevices of the rocks. The softly modeled statues, reliefs and murals lend the temple an enlightenment and harmonious clarity. In the reliefs, the lines have become more graceful, the surface treatment of the stone is thinner. In-depth relief with an exquisite play of light and shade (reliefs of the Hatshepsut temple, early 15th century BC) was especially developed. In the wall paintings there appeared an unprecedented freedom of movement and foreshortening, the subtlety of colorful combinations, landscape was widely introduced into the composition (paintings of tombs in Thebes, late 15th century BC). In terrestrial temples, which developed the idea of ​​a grandiose rhyturno-spatial composition, the main elements were an open courtyard deployed along the longitudinal axis, surrounded by a colonnade, a hypostyle with rows of monumental lotus-shaped or papyrus-shaped columns and a sanctuary with statues of the gods; the entrance to the temple was made out by 2 pylons, in front of which obelisks and statues were erected (temples in Karnak and Luxor).

Art of Ancient Egypt

The art of Akhenaten’s time (1st half of the 14th century BC), striving to weaken the power of the priesthood, Akhenaten carried out a religious reform, founded the new capital Akhetaton – modern El-Amarna) is distinguished by sharp images, an almost grotesque interpretation of individual, morbidly ugly features Pharaoh and his family members. Towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign, sculptural portraits are characterized by aristocratic sophistication and classical clarity of images. The masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art are portraits of the pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti made by the sculptor Thutmes (State Museum, Berlin-Dahlem). The art traditions of Akhenaten’s time were continued by his immediate successors. While maintaining technical excellence and decorative grace, the art of Egypt in the mid-14th century. BC e. gradually acquired, however, a tinge of academic coldness (finds from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun – a golden mask, a throne, vessels, caskets with reliefs and paintings). The traditions of Akhenaten’s era were preserved in the works of a number of masters from Thebes and Memphis. Some works are distinguished by the sharp character of the images, the spontaneity of the transfer of emotions and the generalization of the outline drawing (relief with the image of mourners, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts).

Art of the 2nd half of the 14th century. BC e. the striving for ceremonial splendor and ponderousness of forms is characteristic (the hypostyle of the temple in Karnak with 134 massive columns). The rock type of the temple (Abu-Simbel) was again widespread. In the visual arts, the idealization of the images of the pharaoh (the statue of Ramses II in Abu Simbel) increased. The arts and crafts reached a high level in Egypt (vessels made of slate, alabaster, crystal, figured toilet spoons made of ivory and wood, gold bracelets, necklaces and rings inlaid with precious stones, carved and painted caskets, furniture). Household products that obey the basic stylistic laws of ancient Egyptian art are distinguished by strict refinement of forms, exquisite decorative color, and subtlety of decoration. Ancient Egyptian art experienced its last heyday under the pharaohs of the so-called Sais dynasty (7th century BC). Characteristic is the appeal to ancient traditions, an eclectic combination of artistic techniques from different eras. The meticulously crafted and polished statues and reliefs are marked by academic distraction. Some works are endowed with expressive portrait characteristics (statue of Mantuemkhet, Cairo).

After the conquest of the country by Alexander the Great (4th century BC), Egyptian art was included in the sphere of Hellenistic art, and later in the art of Ancient Rome. The cult architecture of this time, combining ancient and ancient Egyptian forms, is marked by features of eclecticism (the temple of the god Horus in Edfu, 237-57 BC). The original fusion of ancient Egyptian and Roman traditions is the Fayum portraits. With the passage of Egypt under the rule of Byzantium (late 4th century), one of the local variants of early Christian culture took shape – Coptic art. From the 7th century. one of the leading schools of medieval Arab art developed in Egypt.

Art of Ancient Egypt
Goddess Isis Leads Queen Nefretare to the Tomb

The wonderful and holistic art of Ancient Egypt left an indelible mark on the history of world culture. To better understand its originality, one must remember that most of it arose in connection with the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that the soul of a person after his death continues to exist and from time to time visits the body. That is why the Egyptians so diligently preserved the bodies of the dead; they were embalmed and stored in reliable burial structures. So that the deceased could enjoy all the benefits in the afterlife, he was given all kinds of richly decorated household items and luxury, as well as statuettes of servants. In case the body of the deceased undergoes destruction for any reason, another portrait statue was created, replacing its earthly shell for the soul returning from the other world.

Most of all they cared about ensuring eternal life for the ruler of the country – the Pharaoh. Already during his lifetime, over the decades, thousands of his subjects were cut out of the rocks, dragged and erected into place huge stone blocks for the royal tomb. If you remember how low the level of technology was in those days, it is not difficult to imagine how much labor and how many human lives this construction cost. Then came the big so-called. step pyramids; the oldest of them is located in Sakkara and was built four and a half millennia ago. The pyramids were the masterpieces of ancient Egyptian building art. They amaze the imagination with their size, geometric accuracy, as well as the amount of labor expended on their construction. They should have made a particularly strong impression immediately after completion, when their carefully polished surfaces sparkled dazzlingly in the rays of the southern sun.

The greatest and most striking structure of this kind is part of the famous Giza pyramid ensemble. This is the pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops. Its height is 146 meters and it can freely fit, for example, St. Isaac’s Cathedral. In fact, the pyramid consists entirely of stone, inside it there is only a small burial chamber and corridors leading to it, which were walled up after the burial of the king. However, this did not prevent the robbers from finding their way to the treasures hidden in the pyramid; it is no coincidence that later the construction of the pyramids had to be abandoned. Now the tombs began to be carved into the rocks, and the entrances to them were skillfully masked. Thanks to an incredible coincidence, one such tomb was opened in 1922, where the young pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried.

Art of Ancient Egypt

Whole “cities of the dead” were formed from the pyramids and the mastab of large nobles on the banks of the Nile. Nearby, usually on the other side of the Nile, there were temples in honor of the gods. Their columned courtyards and halls were led by huge gates formed by two massive stone blocks tapering upward, the so-called. pylons. The roads led to the gate, framed by rows of sphinxes – statues with the body of a lion and a human or ram’s head. The columns repeated the forms of plants common then in Egypt – papyrus, lotus, palm. They stand like a dense forest in the huge temples of Luxor and Cariac, which were founded around the 16-14th centuries BC. In our time, the temple carved into the rock in Abu Simbel has become especially famous. The construction of the Assusian Dam threatened him with flooding. A gigantic work was done to save the temple: the rock in which the temple was carved was cut into pieces and reassembled in a safe place on the high bank of the Nile.

Egyptian masters created many beautiful, simple and majestic sculptures, nothing like this was known to any of the later eras. Statues made of painted wood or polished stone are of particular value. Pharaohs were usually depicted in the same pose, most often standing, with arms extended along the body, and with the left leg outstretched. Despite the idealization, the portraits faithfully conveyed the unique features of a person. There was more life and movement in the images of ordinary people than in the solemn statues of rulers.

The walls and columns of Egyptian buildings were decorated with reliefs and murals, which are easy to recognize by the peculiar techniques of depicting a person. Each part of the figure was presented in its turn so that it could be seen as fully as possible: the feet and head in the side view, and the eyes and shoulders in the front. The point here was not inability, but in strict adherence to certain rules. A series of images followed in long stripes, outlined by incised contour lines and painted in beautifully chosen tones; they were accompanied by hieroglyphs – signs – pictures of the writing of the ancient Egyptians. For the most part, events from the life of the pharaohs and nobles are shown here, there are also scenes of labor. It is believed that not so much actual events are depicted as desired events, since the Egyptians believed that what was depicted must certainly come true.

The ancient Egyptians did not know the perspective, they depicted distant objects simply above their neighbors. Despite some naivety, their reliefs and paintings captivate with subtlety and grace. Slender women in light linen robes adorned with numerous jewels are especially captivating.

A special flowering of Egyptian art came during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century BC. At that time, real events also resonated in art. Among other works, then wonderful images of the daughters of the king and his wife, the beautiful Nefertiti, were created, who influenced the ideal of beauty even today.

Thanks to beliefs and strict rules, ancient Egyptian art has existed almost unchanged for about two and a half millennia. In the later period, it was influenced by the art of other peoples, especially the Greeks, and at the beginning of our era it finally died out.

Ancient Egyptian art

In ancient Egypt, they reflected on the meaning of craft, study and art. Art had a high social status, it was of divine origin. The essence of people in this world is to prepare for a life of death, which is based on myths and colorful pictures.

The Egyptians believed that the soul of dead people lives on and sometimes visits them. Therefore, they carefully guarded the body of the deceased and kept it in a strong structure. The conservative mummification materials were various oils, clay, sand, resin, sawdust, wool, perfume, and onions. An omulet made of stone, wood or metal was laid on the hearts of the deceased, and jewelry and expensive things were also laid on them.

ARCHITECTURE is one major branch of the culture of ancient Egypt.

Art of Ancient Egypt

Since ancient times, Egypt has attracted travelers, schoolchildren, and external neighboring countries. The Greeks of the Egyptian civilization marveled at its monuments and the nature of life, admired the mind and imagination. Two large pyramids of Cheops and Khafre are numbered among the seven wonders of the world. Interest in Egypt began during the Renaissance. The study of the monuments of Egypt began only in the 19th century, after when the visiting participants of the Napoleonic expedition released the collection “Description of Egypt” (1798-1801), and JEAN FRANCOIS CHAMPOLION in 1822. announced a work that helped to read hieroglyphs. Please note that only archaeological sites help reconstruct and understand the life and art of Ancient Egypt. It was very important to read texts written in hieroglyphs, which helped to understand the history, craft, culture and art of Ancient Egypt. Robbers came to this land, they destroyed monuments, and stolen works of art were sold to museums in European countries.

The culture of Ancient Egypt is divided into 3 periods:

Ancient Egypt (3100-2000 BC)
Middle Egypt (2000-1570 BC)
New Egypt (1570-525 BC)